Saturday, September 29, 2012

Disney...a recap and review

i planned our disney vacation for well over a year
obviously i was looking forward to it more than molly because she didn't even know what to expect
i had vague memories of going in childhood, once at about 3years old and again at 8 years old
i also went one other time in 2007 with eddie and his family

here's the long and short of it...
people may wonder is disney
overrated?   perhaps
fun?  of course
expensive?  oh yeah!
tiresome?  yes!
stressful?  at times
memory making?  yes
relaxing?  not really
thrilling?  yes
magical?  absolutely
worth it?  definitely!!!!!!!!!

now let me break it down for you...
i planned this trip during the week of molly's 4th birthday because i wanted to make it something magical...
yes, i am that parent! 
i wanted us both to look back and always remember this trip
i thought it was a good age because she loves all the movies and is into all the characters now
and i knew the crowds would be very low at this time

i also knew we could not do this {as easily} when she got to be school aged, the older you are the harder it is to miss so much school

what i discovered was:
that even though molly is a pretty well behaved little girl and had my full attention during the whole trip, she was still subject to some breakdowns, temper tantrums, and crying spells while we were there
they were brought on by mere exhaustion, fatigue, hunger, hotness, and/or crowds
i felt guilty every time it happened because i thought look at what i'm putting her through!  
am i crazy?
then, on the flip side when we saw a parade or a character in person she would squeal with excitement and say, "there's mickey mouse, mommy!" (or whoever it was)
she smiled and posed for every picture with a character
she loved it
it seriously made her day!!!!

also, since it was her birthday she got to wear a disney "birthday pin" with her name on it all week
and practically every single disney employee stopped and told her happy birthday calling her by name
some gave her stickers or little disney cards
she LOVED this!
one time we boarded onto the bus and the driver did not see her pin and she just stopped in front of him and waited for him to notice her!  it was hilarious!
after the day of her birthday i left the pin in the room and thought she shouldn't wear it anymore and she said, "but mom, nobody will talk to me without my button on!"  so we stopped at the front desk and got a new one.  it was just one of her favorite things for sure!

age/energy level/physical requirements:
we did not use a stroller at all during the week
we never use one at home anymore, and honestly it made for an easier week!
if you are in the midst of planning a disney trip, i would strongly encourage you to wait until your kid is old enough to walk through the parks independently.
the crowds are way too huge to worry with a stroller, making your way through busy areas, parking them at all the attractions, folding and refolding on the buses, maneuvering through stores with them, etc.
molly was such a trooper!  walking her little legs off and she never complained about it at all.
but then again, she is little ms. independent!

i saw parents here with kids of all ages and i cannot imagine bringing anyone younger than 4 years old!
you do not want to worry about diaper changing, food issues, bottles, etc. on this kind of trip!
i saw pregnant moms walking around the parks and just asked myself why????
why would you ever want to come to a theme park if you are pregnant?
don't do it!  

wait until your kids are older and you are not pregnant or nursing before you plan a trip like this.

the trip is physically demanding on so many levels!
obviously it requires a lot of walking!  all of the parks are spread out and you are going back and forth.
getting on and off the rides can be challenging at times when you are hurrying, juggling bags, and trying to guide a toddler off safely.

camera/photo pass:
i did take my "nice camera" because of course i wanted those great pictures everyone has of their disney vacation
i'm glad i had it, but it was kind of a pain to keep up with in the parks
i wanted to be able to be "free" from all of the bags and straps, but oh well!

i got some great pictures:)
now, as soon as you walk into the parks you will see a ton of disney photographers that will take your pic and give you a photo pass card
this is a great option to be able to get pictures that include you in them
another good thing about having your own camera is the photo pass photographers will use your camera also most of the time (if you ask), and that is a nice "extra"

you keep up with that card and use it during your whole trip for pictures in front of famous attractions, character spots, etc.
during our 5 day stay, we our photo pass card had 140 pics on it
after your vacation, you can order individual pics, photo cds, or photo albums
of course, these are really pricey!
my photo cd would have been $180 i think
so i opted to buy a photo album which ended up being $90
it includes pictures from photo pass and pictures i took
since it is disney, it also has all of the disney "stickers", backgrounds, and cuteness

Disney's All Star Music Resort Entrance
we stayed at the all star music disney resort
it is the cheapest place to stay on disney property
and the nice thing is you get all the special perks (magical express, disney decor, fun pools, etc.) even though it's affordable
i knew we would not be at the hotel a lot, so even though i'd love to stay at one of the deluxe resorts, i found this hotel to be very confortable
it was clean and comfy
it has a food court that was sufficient
we each got a refillable mug for the length of our stay which we could fill up for free each morning and take to the parks, this was a nice perk
it had 2 pools that were both nice
of course that is all molly really wanted to do...swim at the pool!
the only flaw i experienced was that the hotel had about 5 different buildings and the one we were in (country fair...perfect for a nashville native!) was located the farthest away from the main building
Country Fair building at All Star Music.
so each time we returned from a park we had at least a 1/2 mile to walk to our room
and by this point we were so was a long walk

but, molly always did so good with this!
even if she had fallen asleep on the bus, she would wake right up and make the long trek back to our room

this also meant for eating purposes (because the food court is in the main building), it was a long walk!

on our next trip to disney, i'd love to stay at the new value resort hotel...the art of animation!
Art of Animation Resort
it's a tad more expensive than the older hotels in this category, but still a good value.

of course if money was no object, i'd prefer to stay here, but i don't know what century that may be! ha!

disney dining/food:
one of the main reasons i wanted to travel in september (besides low crowds and tad cooler temps) was to take advantage of disney's free dining plan
this was a really good value for us because we used our free table service meals for character dining throughout the week
overall, i found the character dining to be pretty good food, a good way to meet characters one on one, nice scenery, but very hectic
{especially as a single parent}, you are kind of under pressure to eat your meal (some of these meals are buffets so that is extra "stress" balancing a toddler and two plates of food), and make sure you don't miss the characters when they come by your table!
i found myself wolfing down my food, prepping molly for who was coming our way..."look molly here comes mickey, get ready to smile"...making sure my camera was ready, etc.
Tusker House
we did the character meal for breakfast at tusker house in the animal kingdom
this was very fun!  the food was very good, but honestly i didn't get to enjoy it, the atmosphere was kind of loud and hectic i thought

we celebrated molly's birthday for dinner at cinderella's royal table
(this picture is blurry of molly, but i wanted to show the beautiful castle windows)
this one actually counted as 2 table service meals
the food was good and was not a buffet, that was nice
this is definitely something everyone should experience at least be able to eat inside the castle was great!  and then, to have all of the princesses come by was wonderful!
we saw ariel, snow white, cinderella,aurora, and belle

finally we ate at akershus royal banquet hall for breakfast in epcot
this again was part buffet and part table service which made it a bit less hectic than tusker house
the food was delicious and we saw aurora, snow white, cinderella, and belle {again}
Entrance to La Hacienda de San Angel
for our last night at epcot, we at at la hacienda de san angel in the mexico pavilion and it was so delicious!
they have great big windows in part of the restaurant which overlook the lagoon and it makes a perfect place to watch the fireworks at night!

other places that were good include:
Dole Whip Recipe served at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom at Disney World
aloha isle in magic kingdom (adventureland) for a dole whip!  yum!!
Grand Marnier Orange Slush Recipe served at France Drink Kiosk in EPCOT at Disney World
Drink kiosk in France for a grand marnier delicious and refreshing!
Funnel Cake Recipe served at Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom at Disney World
Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom, liberty square for a yummy funnel cake!
strawberry shortcake at Sunshine Seasons - In The Land pavilion @ Epcot
sunshine seasons at epcot for a scrumptious strawberry shortcake
Oh, how I miss you, sweet Mickey Mouse ice cream bar...
and of course chocolate covered ice cream mickey mouse ears  throughout all the parks!

with only 2 people traveling, it was nearly the same cost to fly as to drive because i would have had to rent a car and taken 2 full days just for travel
so, molly and i got reasonable airline tickets with southwest
we flew out of nashville at 8am and was in our hotel room by noon

disney makes flying pretty easy when you stay at their resort!
i checked my luggage here in nashville and didn't have to collect it again when we arrived in orlando
they took it straight to our hotel room
that was a really nice perk since i was traveling alone with a toddler

we got on the magical express from the orlando airport and rode straight to our hotel
check in was super easy and fast

we rode on the magical express buses to the parks each day and never had to wait longer than a few minutes for a ride
this was super convenient as they took you about as close as you could get to the park entrance
as we drove by the parking lots each day i thought there is no way i'd want to fool with a car and driving at disney world
you have to pay for parking at each park for one thing, then have to wait for a shuttle to take you to the gate
it wouldn't be fun i don't think!

checking out of the hotel was again super easy
we  checked in our luggage at the airline at the hotel and didn't see it again until we got to nashville!

planning & extras:
as i planned the trip i used several different resources
one was pinterest, check out my disney board here
another site i checked often was the disney mom's panel
i loved comparing the crowd calendar here
i read several different frommer's travel guides on disney

i'm writing 4 different posts with our pictures for each of the check back soon!!


Becky said...

It has been a long time since we went to Disney but I loved it! We stayed in the campground and it was wonderful, like you said, not to have to worry about driving. My doctor is on the Disney Mom panel and a good friend takes a trip to Disney several times each year. Our two oldest were mature for their age and we felt very comfortable letting them break away and maybe eat at a different place or go on different rides when we were in the same general area. They learned the bus stops and the bus driver would sometimes let them make the announcements. I am glad you enjoyed it!

Unknown said...

Amy, so glad you and Molly had fun! I can't wait to see all the pictures. i'm impressed with how independent she is - we couldn't have lived without a stroller for the day we went. But what a magical place. Hope to visit again soon - maybe a cruise!

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